Updated: Feb 2, 2021
"How many young girls there are who see nothing wrong in following certain shameless styles like so many sheep... The good of our soul is more important than that of our body; and we have to prefer the spiritual welfare of our neighbor to our bodily comforts. If a certain kind of dress constitutes a grave and proximate occasion of sin, and endangers the salvation of your soul and that of others, it is your duty to give it up." Pope Pius XII
The manner in which one dresses reveals how one approaches the dignity that is theirs. If one understands and values her dignity, she will dress in a dignified and modest way. However, if one does not fully understand their dignity or rejects it or simply does not know, she will dress in a manner that doesn't reflect the sacredness of herself.
To begin with, my journey to modest dressing has been gradual and the Lord has had such patience and tolerance with me as He gently convicted my heart. Growing up, I found myself dressing how other young girls dressed. I never felt comfortable wearing a bathing suit yet everyone else did so I simply thought it must be my own problem. I didn't understand the gravity of the choices I made in my dress until the Lord opened my eyes.
To go contrary to the popular fashions of society is bold and requires the virtue of fortitude. Despite the difficulty of dressing in a manner that honors and reveres the woman, it is still an ever present concern, duty and responsibility for all the faithful to undertake. Yet, alongside upholding the femininity of the woman by how she dresses, it is also to "Love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 12:31)." The female must respect the other, specifically, the male by not being a near occasion of sin. It is the woman's responsibility to dress in a manner that encourages the males towards virtue, purity rather than down a path of vice and temptation.
Woman should reject the "norm" styles of their day if it is contrary to the virtue of modesty. St Jacinta said that "people who serve God should not follow current fashion trends" and "the Church has no fashions" and "Our Lord is always the same." Tight clothing, cleavage, short skirts, short pants, bathing suits simply anything that is contrary to how the Blessed Mother appears in dress, should be avoided at all costs. The body is sacred thus covering what should remain covered and veiling what should remain veiled is crucial. Bishop John Yanta of the Catholic diocese of Amarillo, Texas on the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ states in his pastoral letter "Dressing or putting on one's clothes is a moral act and wearing them is a moral act... The four cardinal virtues are in play here. The wise person is guided by wisdom (doing and saying the right thing), justice (respects the dignity of other persons), fortitude (courage to go against popular, suggestive, provocative styles), and temperance (insures mastery over sensual temptations as occasions of sin)."
The Lord Jesus in Holy Scripture states "You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in Heaven (Matthew 5:14-16)." It is a good deed in respecting both yourself and the other person by dressing with modesty; it is honoring the gift of your body and person and also safeguarding the soul of the other. It's also important to remember that "Femininity, style and grace are more than just what we wear on the outside. They are also about who we are and what God has created us to be on the inside as well." Living a life worthy of our calling requires a life nourished by prayer. The fruits being faith, hope and charity. Ultimately, our lives should be centered simply on the 1st commandment "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. (Matthew 22:37)". This in turn leads the soul to love their neighbor as oneself and this transforms their life and all aspects of it.
St. Ignatious of Loyola, pray for us.
Dressing with Dignity
By: Colleen Hammond